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One of the most defining moments of Malia Tarasek’s life occurred just after graduating from The University of North Carolina, Wilmington. With a degree in international business and a minor in Asian studies, Malia headed off to Gongju, South Korea, to become an English teacher.

“I was one of the only non-Korean people to live and work in the city, so I had to learn to adapt to Korean culture and understand the Korean language to the best of my ability, and do it fast!” Malia exclaims. “It was the first job I had outside of college, it was in-line with my major, and I thought it was going to be a great start to my career.”

As Malia acculturated to South Korea, she learned how to not only adjust to, but also overcome, challenging situations — persistent pliability and a willingness to adapt were musts. Malia continues to carry these qualities into everything she does.

Malia’s travels also took her to The Demilitarized Zone in North Korea; Vietnam, where she became a certified scuba diver; Thailand; the ancient ruins in Cambodia; The Philippines; and Singapore, one of the smallest countries in the world.

“Studying abroad and working abroad during and after college has been the most influential experience in my life. It taught me to adapt to my surroundings and be more understanding of other cultures,” Malia says.

Malia credits her time in South Korea — as well as the semester she spent in Japan during college — with encouraging her to be more vulnerable.

“I really appreciated the daily tests that came along with struggling through life in a different country. Being vulnerable helps shape you into a better person. Change is good and necessary.”

Real Estate Calls

After a year in South Korea, Malia moved back to her hometown, and was uncertain about what she wanted to do for work.

“With an international business degree and minor in Asian studies, I felt out of place and unsure how to proceed with my career in the U.S.,” she says. “I felt like my career started abroad and should have stayed abroad, so finding my place back here in the States was difficult.”

In debt and in need of steady income, Malia took on odd jobs as a nanny and at a restaurant before landing work as an assistant for a top-producing real estate agent. Little did she know that job would eventually change the entire direction of her life.

As Malia came to understand the inner workings of real estate, she realized that she possessed the ability to grow her own business as well. Within a few short months, she obtained her license.

“Getting my license came with an increase in confidence, a sense of belonging, and a better understanding of who I am and what I want to do for a living,” Malia explains. “I was lost when I fell into the assistant position, just trying to make ends meet. Now, as a licensed real estate agent with Keller Williams Capital Properties, I know I am doing something that makes me happy on a daily basis — helping others build their personal wealth through real estate.”

Living in Gratitude

Over the past several years, Malia has come to fall in love with her work in real estate. The quantitative success is rewarding, but it pales in comparison to the feeling at the closing table. “Growing up, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or if I would like my job. I can now say I love my life so far because of my job. Not just buying and selling real estate, but also the architecture of homes, the design aspect of homes, and the joy of homeownership.”

“I really enjoy my job,” Malia smiles. “Helping others reach their financial and personal goals through real estate, while also being able to choose my hours, is where I find joy in the daily grind. Life is short. You have to do what you love.”